Thursday, June 28, 2012

BIG’s Blog: First Apple, then Amazon, then Microsoft and now Google

This last week Google launched a tablet.

Apple’s iPad was the first tablet, a new category in personal communication and computing devices. The iPad was followed by Amazon’s Kindle e-Reader… not really a tablet but similar technology. Then Microsoft launched a tablet, and now Google.

When the tech heavyweights are building and selling their own hardware/software tablet, you’ve got to stop and ask yourself, “What’s going on here?”

While it is not a surprise for Apple, who after all is a device manufacturer, but when Microsoft and Google, who are primarily known as software and search, respectively begin developing, manufacturing, and selling their own branded tablet, it is surprising to say the least.

So, what’s really going on here?

My take is that all these tech heavyweights are coming out with their own tablet devices because they  realize HOW FAST COMPUTING AND COMMUNICATIONS IS MOVING TO THE CLOUD.

The Cloud is the amorphous Internet-connected, server-based virtual platform where all software and software-based applications (Facebook, Spotify, Pinterest etc.) reside.

The “install” model of loading and hosting your own software on your own machines is quickly giving way to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), a browser-accessible computing and application model.


Because it is easier to access and integrate all Cloud-based platforms?

Yes, but primarily because it is waaaaaay less expensive!

Rather than buying and hosting your own applications on-site, you now essentially rent them. It is a different business model for those selling software, services and applications. For instance, instead of paying up front $750,000 for a donor management system… you pay a monthly fee of $5,000.

Fifteen years ago the cost-of-entry to being a nonprofit fundraiser targeting a national audience was significant. Even starting small but aspiring to raise several million dollars was a half-million dollar investment in your basic technology infrastructure and advertising costs.

Not today.

While established fundraising organizations continue to focus on their dying direct mail, start-up nonprofits (think Charity Water) employ online-based management and communication systems and platforms,  and eschew direct mail to only promote through the Internet. And it isn’t just Charity Water but hundreds … even thousands of fundraising organizations rely solely on Cloud-based systems to manage their donor interactions and use only the Internet to promote their cause.

So what’s the take-away for fundraisers at established organizations?

Do you really think these tech heavyweights would be plowing billions into these new tablet devices if they weren’t certain that people like you and me would be buying and … more importantly … using them to access all manner of things in our lives including who we donate to through the Cloud?

You need to take these signals seriously and re-think fundraising infrastructure and communications for future donors.


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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Summer Re-Set

Sometimes we need to stop… and really think about what we are doing in fundraising.

We can become too… Impatient, Self-focused, Angry, and even Manipulative.

We are, after all, only human.

If we effectively communicate the mission, the gifts should be a by-product of our mission.

That’s humbling.


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Sunday, June 24, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Keep It Simple, Stupid – Part 2

Years ago, right after I graduated from college, I worked in one of my family’s department stores. Our stores were primarily women and children’s clothing. Although I had worked in the stores from the age of twelve, to keep in touch with customer reactions to the merchandise selections, I would work the sales floor daily.

One of the things I learned early on was to limit the choice for the customer to no more than three options. More options than three created confusion and, more often than not, the customer could not make up their mind and walked away without purchasing.

35+ years later, the issue of “too many options” is even more important.

In a new study posted on Harvard Business Review’s Blog Network, Karen Freeman, Patrick Spenner, and Anna Bird share some of the early results of a survey they did with 7,000 consumers worldwide. The results are as important to fundraisers as they are to commercial product companies.

They relate the historical way that consumers have always purchased is through a funnel approach. In simple terms, the funnel is 1) becoming aware of something 2) creating interest or desire to act and 3) gradually reducing the options or brands.

Their research indicates that today’s consumers (and donors) are facing cognitive overload. Modern consumers are overwhelmed by the volume of choices.

Their response to this overload has been three-fold. About one-third continue to use the funnel approach but the other two-thirds evenly divide between first, an open-ended purchase path of adding and dropping brands, while the other half abandon the search altogether and simply zero in on a single brand.

So what are the implications for fundraisers?

The study identified three types of consumers and, since consumers are also donors, it is not a leap to ascribe these same consumer actions to donating as well. This would indicate that the first type of donor continues to be open to messages and engagement from new organizations, and they are actively winnowing who to donate to. The second group you probably don’t want. They may donate today and be gone tomorrow. And the third group will have a bias toward larger nonprofit names.

But the secret, say the study’s authors, is to make your message as simple as you can. “In fact, we found that the single biggest driver of ‘stickiness’ – customers’ likelihood of following through on a purchase, buying the product again, and recommending it – was, by far, ‘decision simplicity,’ the ease with which consumers can gather trustworthy information about a product and confidently and efficiently navigate their purchase options. The bottom line: these days making a decision easy is what makes customers choose your brand.”

For fundraisers, substitute “donate” for “purchase” or “buying,” and “donor” for “customer” or “consumer,” and re-read that last quote.


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Thursday, June 21, 2012

BIG’s Blog: It’s Not Transition … It’s Transformation

At the turn of the 20th century, horsepower literally drove the personal transportation system. The early automobiles were invented in the late 19th century, but the early years of the 20th century saw the beginnings of automobile mass-production and hence mass-adoption of the automobile.

But, let’s be clear, there was no transition from the horsepower driven transportation system to the automobile transportation system. There was no half-horse / half-auto intermediate “vehicle” that transitioned the horse-based system to the automobile-based system.

The horse-based transportation system faded away as the automobile-based transportation system grew.

Likewise, there will be no transition from the direct mail-based fundraising model to the Internet-based fundraising model.

It’s not a transition … it’s a transformation of the way you do fundraising.  

The more you really know about the real-time, always-on Internet, the more you understand how different it is to effectively use this growing and dynamic platform to build supporters for your organization.

Yet how do you learn if your focus is always on the day-to-day programs and issues of your direct mail-based fundraising model?

The answer is – you can’t. At some point you have to stop and develop a new plan for the post-direct mail fundraising world. And part of that plan is to learn what you don’t know about the real-time, always-on Internet-based fundraising model.

Recently I spoke to a group of fundraisers about this topic and my talk was filmed. Click on the link below to see the short video.


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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Keep It Simple, Stupid

For my readers who may never have heard the phrase “Keep It Simple, Stupid,” it is not meant to offend but to enlighten. It is also known as the KISS principle.

James Carville, former President Clinton’s campaign director, is famous for using the KISS principle in Clinton’s first run for the White House by modifying it and stating, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Carville’s phrase embodied the core of the message of the KISS principle:  you have to keep the message and focus simple and to the point.

This is incredibly important in today’s fundraising environment where the number of nonprofits chasing donations is growing faster than the donation pie. But it is also important in today’s online, real-time environment. Every single message that emanates from your organization must be focused, simple and consistent with your overall message or you risk confusing current and potential donors.


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Sunday, June 17, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Becoming Unstuck

One of my favorite bloggers recently wrote a very thought-provoking blog called Understanding Stuck.

He opened his blog with the example of the seatbelt speech that flight attendants do on every flight. “Given that we have 100% seatbelt understanding among the flying population, why do flight attendants repeat the instructions literally millions of times a year?”

He answers his own question by saying, “It’s stuck.”

That got me thinking about how “stuck” might also apply to some nonprofit fundraising organizations that many years ago adopted a very successful fundraising model built around direct mail appeals. For 60+ years those direct mail appeals have been fantastically successful in growing revenue, which allowed the missions of the organization to expand.

But now direct mail is not working as well. Younger generational cohorts are using digital forms of communications. Yet many fundraising groups with direct mail programs just keep chugging out direct mail appeals even as their profitability declines.


Maybe they’re stuck.

So, how do you get unstuck?

The blogger says to “1) create a vacuum and, 2) ignore dissent.”

The blogger adds that “Change gets made by people who care, who have some sort of authority and are willing to take responsibility.”

1. People who care…
2. People who have authority…
3. People willing to take responsibility…

“Move (part of) your team across the street, open a new location, completely rewrite the employee handbook, throw out the standard sales script – by creating a vacuum, you give your team permission to invent.”

To get unstuck, you need permission.


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Thursday, June 14, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Just My Luck!

Sometimes I cannot believe my good fortune.

This past Monday, I posted a blog entitled It’s Now Official. For those of you who may have missed it, the point of the blog was to raise the fact that if your organization is not generating 30 and 40-year-old donors, that should be a red flag for the future financial health of your organization.

Well, guess what?

As first reported in the online edition of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the 2012 Millennial Impact Report detailed the results of a new survey of 6,500 people ages 20 to 35, which finds that 75% said that they gave money to a nonprofit in 2011. And 70% said they have helped solicit donations by encouraging colleagues and others to support a cause.

Okay, so how many Millennial donors, let alone late 30 year olds and 40 years olds, do you have on your donor files? And your excuse is that young people don’t have money to give?

The report detailed that 58% reported that their largest contribution was $100 or less, but 16% gave $500 or more. Isn’t your average gift in the 20 or 30 dollar range? Sounds to me like Millennials give the same amount as your current “older” donors.


So what’s the problem? This new report kind of takes away the excuse that “young people don’t give because they don’t have money.” Turns out that not only do they have money, they are donating just like the older cohorts that donate to your organization. Or, maybe a more favorable read of the report is that although Millennials don’t have as much disposable income as older donors, they actually give more of what they have. Sounds to me like donors you should get to know.

So what’s the problem?

You know what? I’ll bet it isn’t one thing, but rather a host of things that are keeping Millennials, as well as Gen Xers, and even the younger Baby Boomers from donating to your organization in proportion to their percentage of the population.

If you’re concerned… and you should be… put together your own focus group of age groups who used to be represented in your donor base but aren’t there today. Show them your donor acquisition material. Show them your appeal letters. Ask them about what media they connect with. Ask them to comment on your messages. This is a great first step to addressing a big problem.

Then, maybe it’s time to think about formulating a new fundraising plan.


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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Accelerators

Our economy is changing and reshaping, and driven by the Internet. Literally… there is not a business or industry (including the nonprofit fundraising industry) that is not affected by the new digital  platform that is called the Internet.

Not only are long-established companies re-doing their processes and communications to adapt to the new capabilities offered by the Internet, but there are tens of thousands of new companies starting up every day that are, at their core, built around a new competitive advantage that the Internet platform offers.

And there is a whole new industry that has emerged to help these young companies get started. These companies that help would-be entrepreneurs get started are called Accelerators. And as you might expect, they proliferate in the tech hubs of Silicon Valley (San Francisco area), New York, Austin and Boston. But there are Accelerators in Chicago, LA and most major cities as well.

Most young entrepreneurs understand their market niche and, if they are technology companies, they are fluent in all aspects of their technology. But when it comes to business matters, such as creating a business plan, raising capital, creating a financial proforma or dealing with H/R issues… not so much.  

Not only do these Accelerators help them (school them) with the business issues of starting and managing a company, but they act as ongoing mentors to these fledgling start-ups.

It has occurred to me that fundraising leadership is in a similar – yet different – position to these start-up entrepreneurs. Fundraising professionals clearly understand the business aspects of directing and managing their organizations as well as having long-since mastered all aspects of fundraising methodologies as they have been practiced for 60+ years. Yet, most are less than clear on the impacts and implications of the new Internet technologies and how they create a new cohesive fundraising model that can work for them over time.

Too bad there isn’t a similar-type organization for fundraisers like the Accelerators for entrepreneurial start-ups.

Well, maybe there is.

There are already fundraising organizations that are transforming their basic approach to fundraising… based upon the fundamental transformative change provided by the Internet. These fundraising organizations have obviously connected the dots and, frankly, many of these organizations are our clients.

So, what is it that they know that other organizations haven’t yet figured out?

At Browne Innovation Group we are always thinking of how we can meet the needs of the fundraising community in a better and more effective way. In the very near future, we will be announcing a new online course for fundraisers which will accomplish two goals. First, it will help explain what fundraisers will need to know to successfully transform their fundraising organization. Second, the course will illustrate what this new fundraising business model looks like.  

If you would be interested in receiving the announcement of this online course, drop me an email and I will make certain you receive it.


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Sunday, June 10, 2012

BIG’s Blog: It’s Now Official

The news last week in a new report from Pew Internet, a project of the Pew Research Center, shows that for the first time, fully half of adults aged 65 and older are online.

The same report also reported that after age 75, Internet and broadband use drops off significantly.

That last part about the 75 and older crowd probably didn’t surprise you.  This real news that half of our population, 65+, are online probably did surprise you; it did me.

But that shouldn’t worry you. The 65+ crowd will still open your direct mail appeals. But now you know for certain that you need to be asking them for email addresses and logging them into your donor management system (database).

No, your real concern should be how you are not communicating and connecting with 30 and 40 year olds. If half of the 65+ population are online, what percentage of the 30 and 40-year-olds are online? Try close to 100%.

In the 70s, 80s and most of the 90s, you were getting a significant portion of 30 and 40-year-olds, at least representative of their percentage of the population. You may still be getting a few, but nowhere near their percentage of the population. How do I know this? Because over the last 15 years the donor files have aged dramatically.

Why aren’t you getting 30 and 40-year-olds?

Answer: Because it’s easier to keep using the same methodology of fundraising as if nothing has changed.

But, of course, things have changed dramatically.

I recently visited a number of faith-based fundraising organizations. Did they all have Web sites? Yes. We’re they all doing social media? Most of them were. Were they sending emails following a direct mail appeal? Most were doing this.

But the reality is that these organizations… like so many long-established fundraising organizations… are really just tinkering around the edges with online. They know that their direct mail isn’t producing 30 and 40-year-old donors in any significant numbers. And when they listen to people like me or others talk about doing things differently… even reorganizing how they do fundraising to reach younger cohorts… they acknowledge the need. But is there a sense of urgency?

Look.  Running a fundraising organization is tough, even when you have the wind to your back and times are good. But today, with revenue flat-to-falling year over year and expenses rising – IT IS TOUGH. I’ve run enough companies through good times and bad to appreciate the struggles of leadership.

But not having 30 and 40-year-olds coming in should be a big red flag.


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Thursday, June 7, 2012

BIG’s Blog: What’s the Square Root of …?

To those of you in management of a certain age, you remember when you began to hire tech staff. Technology, whether databases, computer networks, or a host of other things.

Well, now a new generation is preparing to one day lead organizations like yours. And as a peek into what educators believe will be the skills necessary to succeed, their curriculum is changing. But before the curriculum changes, the entrance tests change as well. In this case, the GMAT, (Graduate Management Admission Test) for those applying to business schools.

The new GMAT rolled out on Tuesday, June 5, of this week. What is changing gives us all a glimpse into what educators believe will be important skills for managers.

A new section on the new version of the GMAT entitled “Integrated Reasoning,” a group of 12 questions, is taking the place of a single essay question. The new Integrated Reasoning section requires test-takers to read and sort complex charts and analyze data from multiple sources. This new section is intended to gauge how well applicants can handle more data-driven courses that educators believe will mirror the more complex data analysis problems they will face in the real world.

You’re starting to hear the term “Big Data.” Nonprofit fundraisers, like all other sectors, gain more and more access to data, and must learn to analyze, make sense of, and correct decisions from the data. Successful fundraising organizations will need to be fluent in managing and analyzing data in the very near future. Their organizations will depend upon it.


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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Facebook Is Way More Than Just Marketing

From the May 17, 2012 USA Today:

When Red Robin Gourmet Restaurant introduced its Tavern Double burger line last month, the company had to get everything right. So it turned to social media… Instead of mailing out spiral-bound books, getting feedback during executives’ sporadic store visits and taking six months to act on advice from the trenches, the network’s free-wheeling discussions and video produced results in days.

The changes that are happening based upon the adoption of social networks go way beyond just marketing. Beyond advertising on Facebook or Twitter, companies (and soon nonprofits) are using social networks to build teams that solve problems faster andshare information better among their employees.

“At a very basic level, Facebook is the most popular application ever, with a billion people that know how to use it,” said Marc Benioff, chief executive of… the ability to access information is much better because it’s easier to get to it.”

“Social platforms have the potential to be as important to the broader economy as other information technologies,” said Stacy Bishop, a technology investor.

Whether it’s making connections, listening to your constituents and donors, or internal communications with your employees, social platforms can help your fundraising organization do more than just raise more donations.


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Sunday, June 3, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Think About This!

Recently, I watched an interview on Charlie Rose with Larry Page, founder and CEO of Google.

I know a lot of my blog readers in nonprofit fundraising struggle with the concept of’ “How do I get people on the Web to become donors?” And that QUESTION either paralyzes them or gets them taking baby steps on the Web, such as building a new website or putting up a Facebook page.

I understand your question… really, I do. But if you are going to “sit tight” with your current plan and mode of fundraising while you “wait” for clarity to come or “take baby steps,” then very soon there is going to be a huge price to pay.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page are the two co-founders of Google. They are arguably two of the smartest people on the planet. Below are two quotes from Larry Page from the Charlie Rose interview that you have to read and internalize if you think you can “sit tight” and wait for clarity.

“Everybody in the world is going to have a mobile device hooked to the Internet.”

“The pace of change is changing. It is getting much faster.”

Do you see how those two quotes are interrelated?

Remember when we had to go to the library to the reference section to look up stuff?  Now that happens on Google in seconds. And we can take information and study, analyze, or crunch it right at our computer with programs that are either on the computer or running in the cloud. The point is we do everything quicker.

That means that people are already going to the Internet to “check you out.” What will they see? Are you ready to engage them in conversation? Answer questions? What if they call after 5 pm in the afternoon?

Does your mode of fundraising still look the way it did 40 years ago? Okay, so you’ve added PCs, but the functions are still the same, aren’t they?

What’s your plan for speeding up changing your organization to keep up with all those connected people?

In 1997 Google didn’t exist. That’s right, a mere 15 years ago, Google as a company did not exist. Then they changed the world.

But here is the real deal: everyday, your organization’s work and mission is CHANGING THE WORLD. And that “change” may be more important to one person than all the technological changes that Google has ever made.

But, if your organization’s financial oxygen dries up because your historically successful fundraising program doesn’t develop a “new plan” to take advantage of the online, real-time, always-on Internet. . .


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